Century Link Facing Fine for Statewide 911 Outage
Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the internet delivery-communications giant should have to pay a maximum penalty for a lengthy statewide outage that affected 911 service.
Ferguson released a statement saying Century Link has to shoulder the blame because the outage was a result of an error by the company that left 911 calls inoperable for six hours last April.
Ferguson is urging the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to reject a proposed settlement, and levy the full $11.5 million dollar fine. According to Ferguson's office:
"The 911 outage, which occurred April 9 – 10, 2014, was caused by a preventable coding error that caused 911 calls to fail once a total of 40 million calls had been logged by third-party software used to provide 911 service. Compounding the error, the software’s back-up measures to reroute calls failed and it had insufficient warnings to alert technicians to the severity and extent of the problem. As a result, CenturyLink was slow to recognize and respond to the critical outage. When 911 operators, concerned by an unusually low number of incoming calls, reported suspected problems to CenturyLink, they were initially told the company was not aware of any problem.
During the outage, CenturyLink did not adequately communicate to the public, the media, 911 call centers and the UTC about the problem and the extent to which 911 services were affected. The UTC investigation found that emergency call centers were not property notified and “were essentially left to their own devices to get the word out within the public safety community about the 911 outages.”
At least 5,600 calls to 911 failed to get get through, and the affected people included witnesses to a number of car accidents, explosions and other emergencies including health-related. The most serious was the case of a 37-year-old Everett woman who's 911 call failed during a home invasion incident. Alicia Cappola was forced to arm herself with a knife and ward off her attacker after she tried calling 911 37 times, and the calls did not go through.
Last September, the Louisiana based company entered into a settlement where they would pay just under $2.9 million, considerably less than the original fine that Ferguson says they should pay. The UTC will hold a hearing January 12th to consider Ferguson's request.